They say that the family who prays together stays together. Or maybe it was plays. No one really knows. Yet familial bonds are always a strong one, especially in video games. More often than not, one sibling journeys on a harrowing quest to rescue the other; a father will sweep a bloody path of vengeance across heaven and earth to kill those who murdered his family. But it isn’t often that the family unit, completely alive and well, dukes it out together.
Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars is an interesting ride that allows players a chance to take dad, one of several moms and their children out for a stroll to conquer evil. Sound crazy? Oh yeah, it is, but it makes for a unique and fun game.
Plenty of us have dreamed of being God’s gift to mankind–that person so “gosh-wow” amazing that only a deity could have produced them. In Conception 2, players take on the role of the main character (who can be named anything), a student/disciple that has been blessed with the ability to fight demons. Sent to a school with other similarly gifted children, the player character learns how to fight the evils of the world.
The world of Aterra is covered with Dusk Circles, “dungeons” that constantly spew out demons. No one can actually go inside a Dusk Circle to suppress it because they drain Ether, a magical power that is used to fight. Because of this, students and soldiers are left to fight an unyielding amount of monsters as they emerge from Dusk Circles. That is until the main character is discovered to be God’s Gift, a boy with so much Ether that he can create a protective bubble around himself and others inside of Dusk Circles.
Literally referred to as God’s Gift throughout the game, he also has the ability to reliably engage in a ritual called Classmating. High ranking female students join God’s Gift in a church where a hand-holding mating ceremony creates Star Children to join the fighting in Dusk Circles.
Let that sink in for a minute. This is a game where players control a guy with incredible powers who can “mate” with multiple women, have children and then bring the whole family along for some monster slaying.
As the game carries on, it becomes more self-referential and lighthearted. Much of this is due to the social/dating sim aspects of the game. The ability to woo fellow classmates and dungeon crawl will likely draw many similarities to the Persona series. The system of chatting up a heroine, choosing appropriate conversation answers based on her personality, and improving her mood to strengthen Star Children will be familiar to fans of Atlus‘ series–which also published Conception.
Developer Spike Chunsoft smartly gave players free time to talk to heroines, shop and create Star Children; the story moves along at a pace decided by players. The general plot isn’t always the deepest. Spike Chunsoft’s storytelling abilities were masterful in the Zero Escape series and Danganronpa. In Conception 2, plot threads aren’t as complex, which makes for more casual fare. The slowly unraveling mystery behind the school is intriguing but it might be the dating stuff that hooks in players the most.
Fighting alongside mom and babies might seem like a chore, but it is not. Like any good dungeon crawler, Dusk Circles are randomly generated and house plenty of monsters and loot. Through the snaking series of rooms and corridors, players have the option to avoid enemies, teleport back to safety or seek out the boss at the end of the dungeon to completely suppress the Dusk Circle.
The core battle system is traditional turn-based fare as teams and enemies exchange shots. One major difference is how teams are placed in battle. Where many games place the player and his friends around enemies in a circle purely for aesthetics, positioning means something here. God’s Gift and the heroine or one of the three teams of Star Children can surround the enemy in four different positions. At least one of these positions has a weak point that will deal additional damage upon attacking.
However, those who want to take the risk can build up their chain meter by attacking from a non-weak spot. Doubled with the Ether Density system that grows over the course of a fight, players’ parties will move faster and dole out more hits. Both the Chain Gauge and Ether Density systems are fickle beasts though, because they are easily gained and lost. Various abilities will help increase them faster but they are usually lost as soon as an enemy lands a hit.
The whole battle system is a balancing act that doesn’t become fully fleshed out until later in the game. In early dungeons, players will be content to spam enemies with basic skills and attacks. Because of this, the early part of the game feels like a chore. Those complex systems don’t seem to matter because enemies can be taken out rather swiftly.
Yet Star Children add another layer of depth to gameplay. Elemental attacks and defenses come into play and when arranged a certain way, the Star Children can execute special attacks or combine themselves with a big damage dealing Mecunite attack. Knowing that Star Children are dependent upon the heroine’s mood and how they were created, players can endlessly tinker.
When not in battle, there is plenty to do in town. Star Children who have reached max level can be given independence and build up the town’s level, opening up new shops and areas. There are important bonding moments with your female classmates. As mentioned, players will have to understand their personality to create stronger bonds with them. Each has their own story and taking the time to hear their dialogue and get to know them is fun. After every piece of gameplay begins to click, players will find themselves getting into the constant back and forth between dungeon crawling and social sim.
Graphics & Sound
Conception 2 looks decidedly sharp on the Vita. For a game where graphical prowess probably wasn’t at the forefront, there are nice details in characters and enemies. As the game continues, enemies might feel less unique and the constant string of dungeon architecture begs for more variety.
What really serves as a treat is the 2D animation that comes with dialogue and interaction. Many games are guilty of having characters remain virtually static as they are talking with each other. Side characters and heroines actually move their mouths when talking and exude enough body language to not come off as dead.
One thing to keep in mind is that there’s plenty of jiggle physics in heroine’s breasts. This wouldn’t be the first time a game has done this and it likely won’t phase players who have seen worse. Still, it is slightly excessive due to it’s constant integration in every scene.
Female voices provide a nice sincerity to many scenes and give off enough innocence during tender moments that player’s can’t help but blush before they create another baby together. The main character stays pretty silent as per tradition but does his constant yelling of “Alright!” during certain dialogue selections might be too much.
A real high point is the soundtrack. Plowing through dungeons with various themes keeps players on a good action-oriented pace, but the best lies in the cheery music that populates town activities. Throw in the themes for Classmating and Star Child birth–where “Congratulations on your new arrival,” is excitedly sung–and players are given tracks that will have them tapping their feet along with the J-pop-inspired tunes.
Conception 2: Children of the Seven Stars is a wild ride. The contrast of making babies and bringing them into dungeons with mom seems almost too unreal to actually be in a game. Premise aside, it might not provide the most entertaining tale ever but it is supplemented by a solid battle system.
Players will struggle with the fun factor early as the multiple systems don’t really have a purpose. But after getting into the rhythm, Conception 2 really expands. There will be some who are more creeped out than charmed at the decidedly weird things going on, but an open mind will have plenty of laughs and rosy cheeks. And let’s not forget that when it comes to moving in and out of dungeons, the Vita never fails to be a great system to do it on.